NPCA says man­date not af­fected by job cuts, MOU changes

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - NEWS - ABen­ner@post­ twit­­ner1 AL­LAN BENNER STAN­DARD STAFF

Ni­a­gara Penin­sula Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity is adamant it will con­tinue to ful­fil its man­date, de­spite con­cerns about re­cent lay­offs.

NPCA is­sued a state­ment Wednesday morn­ing, hop­ing to clear up “in­ac­cu­rate union claims and MPP state­ments” re­gard­ing its on­go­ing role and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties after the agency cut eight front­line work­ers in late Septem­ber.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s state­ment, posted on its web­site Wednesday morn­ing, says some of the job cuts were a re­sult of dis­cus­sions about re­vis­ing a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing that was signed by NPCA, Ni­a­gara Re­gion and lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties about a decade ago.

NPCA com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Michael Re­les, how­ever, said nei­ther the changes to that MOU or the re­sult­ing job cuts that in­cluded two plan­ners will un­der­mine NPCA’s com­mit­ment or abil­ity to ful­fil its leg­is­lated man­date.

De­spite con­cerns that NPCA’s wa­ter­shed pro­tec­tion du­ties could be trans­ferred to Ni­a­gara Re­gion, Re­les said that part of its job falls un­der the Con­ver­sa­tion Author­ity Act and will not change.

“It con­tin­ues to be un­der the purview of the NPCA and noth­ing will change that area,” Re­les said. “It has noth­ing to do with shore­line pro­tec­tion. It has noth­ing to do with wa­ter­sheds, streams, wet­lands, creeks, noth­ing to do with that.”

Re­les said prop­erty own­ers still re­quire per­mis­sion from NPCA for any pro­ject within a reg­u­lated or hazard area, as well as NPCA-is­sued per­mits for any devel­op­ment that may in­ter­fere with wet­lands or wa­ter­courses.

Ni­a­gara Re­gion plan­ning and devel­op­ment com­mis­sioner Rino Mostacci said the MOU was de­vel­oped in 2007 after the Re­gion adopted new nat­u­ral her­itage poli­cies as part of its of­fi­cial plan.

NPCA was brought in to in­ter­pret and ad­min­is­ter those poli­cies, “be­cause they had the ex­per­tise to do that at the time.”

Mostacci said the con­ser­va­tion author­ity re­cently “de­ter­mined that they no longer want to pro­vide that ser­vice to the Re­gion, and we have to rene­go­ti­ate the MOU and as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for nat­u­ral her­itage plan­ning,” Mostacci said.

Al­though do­ing so would pro­vide a “onewin­dow ad­min­is­tra­tive so­lu­tion here at the Re­gion,” Mostacci said it would also cre­ate a strain on re­sources within his depart­ment.

Mostacci said regional plan­ning staff have al­ready added the in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ad­min­is­tra­tion of nat­u­ral her­itage poli­cies to their ex­ist­ing work­load, which has had an im­pact on re­sources.

“If we’re going to have to ad­min­is­ter the nat­u­ral her­itage poli­cies in house, we’re prob­a­bly going to have to pick up the ap­pro­pri­ate staff to do that.”

The NPCA state­ment also says the or­ga­ni­za­tion hopes Ni­a­gara Re­gion will hire for­mer NPCA em­ploy­ees who lost their jobs.

“To be clear, the ex­per­tise re­sides within in­di­vid­u­als, not within or­ga­ni­za­tions,” the NPCA state­ment says.

Mostacci said he sus­pects “that some of the folks who were do­ing the work pre­vi­ously will have a leg up in terms of ex­pe­ri­ence, but I can’t com­mit to who we ul­ti­mately hire.”

Mostacci said there will still be a role for the NPCA within the re­vised MOU, which he hopes to have com­pleted by the end of the year.

“There are still going to be some things that we’d like the con­ser­va­tion author­ity to ad­min­is­ter on our be­half, likely re­lated to storm wa­ter man­age­ment and other things that are more aligned with their man­date.”

Other job losses re­sulted from a mi­nor re­struc­tur­ing that led to the loss of a direc­tor po­si­tion, as well as a value-for-money re­view of its restora­tion pro­gram con­ducted by an in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant.

The value-for-money re­view pointed out de­fi­cien­cies and li­a­bil­ity ex­po­sure within the restora­tion pro­gram, that also fell “short of NPCA’s high stan­dards of ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency,” the state­ment says.

Re­les said NPCA is in­stead de­vel­op­ing a new restora­tion pro­gram to re­place it, that does a bet­ter job of en­gag­ing stake­hold­ers and vol­un­teers, while also en­hanc­ing ac­count­abil­ity and re­duc­ing costs.

That pro­gram is ex­pected to be ap­proved in the weeks to come with more in­for­ma­tion to be re­leased be­fore the end of Oc­to­ber.

Mean­while, the NPCA state­ment says it will “con­tinue to mon­i­tor and as­sess its own needs with the pos­si­bil­ity of re­call­ing laid-off work­ers should the need arise.”

Re­les said he could pro­vide no fur­ther com­ment on the po­ten­tial of re­call­ing any of the laid-off work­ers.



Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.